There are lots of people (Gardner, Brian, Tama, some /. trolls) posting interesting and thoughtful responses to the iTunes University service. It seems like the (online) consensus is something like "It sucks as a concept - forcing universities to lock content behind walled gardens, restricting access and requiring proprietary playback mechanisms."
This is a valid point, worth consideration. However, at the risk of appearing to be an Apple apologist, I'd suggest that the alternatives be considered.
- Don't publish the content (status quo). This somehow feels like a tighter lock-down than publishing into iTMS.
- Publish on your own. People are doing this. It's hard to scale, though. Apple's offering infrastructure and systems that would be hard to replicate. It is possible, of course, as shown by MIT OpenCourseWare.
- Create a new iTunes + iTMS clone, perhaps open source, that could be used. Technically possible. Is it worth the effort and resources to do this, though? I'm not sure.
And, I haven't seen anything requiring exclusive distribution "rights" being granted to Apple. The content remains property of the university, who is of course free to repackage and republish to their heart's content. Don't like iTunes? Write your own client. Don't like AAC? Convert a copy to MP3 or Ogg Vorbis or Real or WMA or whatever. Don't want the only online copy of the file to be served from Cupertino? Stick a copy on your own server, and provide some kind of service to let people access it.
From what I see, and I have no insider info (so I could of course be wrong), all the iTunes U. service offers is an option for publishing media easily, into the most popular (legal) online content distribution system on the planet.
I'm stepping out on a limb here, but if Apple provided a website front-end, and the option to use MP3 as the file format, would the objections remain? It's not as simple as "Commercial/proprietary systems suck!" - the option, for many, is to not be able to effectively share content at all. Apple isn't intending to restrict, they're attempting to enable.
Update: I just talked with someone at Apple who would know - and iTunes U supports any file format that iTunes can grok - you can publish .mp3 (or .wav, or .aiff, or Apple Lossless) audio, .mp4 video, even .pdf files (that's how album art is handled) as well as the "default" formats of .aac etc... This means there is no lock-in to having an iPod as portable playback device (and even the .aac files can be converted by iTunes to .mp3 now).